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Communication is Key in Working with Your Supervisor
© LaVerne L. Ludden, Ed.D. - 26-Oct-04

Cooperating with your boss will advance your career and make your work experience more pleasant. He or she makes the decisions about your work and what you do. Your supervisor should communicate with you regularly about your job performance and provide coaching techniques, periodic encouragement and suggestions to improve your work.

Here are some simple guidelines to help you communicate effectively about your job performance:
  • Don't respond to feedback with anger. No one enjoys criticism, but it is necessary at times. If you feel angry when your supervisor gives you negative feedback, count to 10 before responding.

  • Understand what you did wrong. Your supervisor may be so upset with something you've done that you aren't sure what the problem is. Apologize if you made a mistake, ask for an explanation of exactly what you did wrong and request advice on the correct thing to do in the future.

  • Say thank you for compliments. You must learn to accept praise as well as criticism. Acknowledge compliments with a simple "thank you."

  • Ask for feedback. If you aren't sure what your supervisor thinks about your work, ask. Let them know you want to succeed on the job.

To get the feedback you want, you need to understand what they expect from you. Practice these six behaviors to satisfy your supervisor and get positive feedback:

  • Be truthful. Your supervisor expects you to tell the truth at all times. If you make mistakes, don't cover them up by lying. Lies are usually discovered, and can be grounds for dismissal.

  • Don't extend your breaks. Your supervisor expects you to work during your scheduled hours. A full-time worker is allowed a 15-minute break mid-morning and mid-afternoon. If you don't return from a break on time, a customer may have to wait, another worker may not be able to take his or her break and others may not be able to finish a task until you complete your part of the job.

  • Get your work done. Balance your work between completing a task as quickly as possible and producing the highest quality of work you can. Ask your supervisor for feedback on how you meet these priorities.

  • Be cooperative. Be flexible when your supervisor asks for your help. Assist with tasks even if they are not normally your responsibility. Cooperation is a mutual thing, and most supervisors will remember your help the next time you need a day off for a special reason.

  • Be supple. The organization you work for needs to react as the world around it changes. Employees sometimes resist change for a variety of reasons, but you can learn to be adaptive.

  • Take initiative. Find ways to help your supervisor. After your own work is completed, look around the office for other tasks to do.
There might be times when you have a conflict with your supervisor. Conflicts are a part of life, and you should not try to avoid them when they arise. Talk with your supervisor about any disagreements.

Below are simple suggestions to help you keep conflicts to a minimum:

  • Don't accuse. When you make a mistake, do what you can to correct it. It's not a good idea to accuse your supervisor of making a mistake.

  • State your feelings. Don't say "you" when explaining your perception of the situation. It will sound like you're accusing. Say "I feel" or "I think" or "I am" to describe your view.

  • Ask for feedback. Ask your supervisor if you understand the situation correctly and have acted appropriately. It's possible you misunderstood what happened. You may find you feel differently once the situation is clarified.

  • State what you want. Know what you want done about a situation before you confront your supervisor. State your wishes clearly and respectfully.

  • Get a commitment. After you explain how you feel and what you want done, find out what your supervisor can do about the situation.

  • Compromise when necessary. Not all problems are solved the way you want. You may have failed to consider your supervisor's needs or the needs of the organization.

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